Exactly Where and How Consumers Will Shop This Holiday Season

Retail is in a time of flux, and even the holiday season — a reliable high point of the year, expected to generate between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion for the industry, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey — is undergoing significant change. E-commerce, of course, is playing an ever-greater role in how consumers shop, whether they’re buying gifts for others or making purchases for themselves, but physical stores are still an important destination for most Americans come November and December.

A recent survey from location data technology firm Blis found that 57.7 percent of shoppers said they plan to do the most of their holiday shopping online, and 37.3 percent said they will shop more online than they did last year. This is good news for Amazon, of course, but also for traditional chains like Target and Walmart that have invested heavily in digital.

And while their competitors have reason to be worried, close to 40 percent of respondents said they will go into brick-and-mortar stores to buy their gifts, with general-merchandise stores securing the bulk of purchases (27.2 percent) followed by specialty/mall retailers (9.2 percent) and local mom-and-pop shops (2.7 percent).

In its own survey of more than 7,000 American consumers, conducted in partnership with Prosper Insights & Analytics, the NRF also delved into the specific types of retailers shoppers intend to visit in the lead up to the holidays. The trade association found that 55 percent of shoppers plan to buy from online retailers, with department stores scoring equal interest. More than half said they will budget shop in discount stores, and 33 percent will visit clothing stores before the season ends.

The survey also revealed the increasing importance of buy online, pick up in store as an option for retailers to offer: 50 percent of respondents who said they plan to shop online this year said they would make a trip to the store to pick up their order.

Once the shoppers are there, retailers have a chance to make an impression: Deloitte’s annual holiday survey found that 56 percent of consumers said they would look for inspiration in physical stores, complementing the 66 percent that said they would look to online retailers.

“Although the rate of online sales growth is accelerating faster than that of physical stores, retailers should put resources behind both to be relevant,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail and distribution leader. “Online convenience is a way of life for most people, but what a person buys is still influenced by what happens in the store.

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